Greens propose a budget that protects Brighton and Hove residents, but warn that the painful impact of the Tories’ economic crisis will continue to be felt
The city council budget for the upcoming financial year has today been published, after months of tough deliberations.
It comes with a firm warning that the combination of the cost-of-living crisis, increasing demand on services, inflation and thirteen years of Tory austerity has forced the council to find £20 million savings. The Government legally requires local authorities to present a balanced budget, and imposes severe consequences on authorities that fail to do so.
Since the first draft was published in December, Green councillors have met with countless residents, employees, and stakeholders to hear feedback and ideas on how to navigate this no-win scenario. Contributions from across the city highlighted the most urgent needs and guided the difficult decisions that have had to be made.
Greens have been relentless in finding innovative and viable ways to protect the services that are the most important to Brighton and Hove residents, and to find solutions to the damning demands of the economic situation. Working tirelessly alongside council officers, the Greens are confident that what they have produced is the best possible budget on behalf of all residents.
This latest budget proposal includes the following:
- Vital public services will continue to be funded. For example, public toilets will not be cut; high-footfall locations will stay open and sites that were already closed are being reviewed for reopening, as we also do work to make toilets in cafes and other contexts accessible to the public;
- Environmental efforts such as the Carbon Neutral Investment Programme and tree planting will be maintained;
- Libraries, parks, and public spaces are staying open, with improvements to children’s play areas;
- From nurseries to adult care facilities to Disabled Facilities Grants to help maintain people in their homes, services for the most vulnerable have been protected wherever they can;
- Supported bus routes will continue, along with the Local Transport Plan to support sustainable transport and transport infrastructure;
- Investment into the infrastructure and look of our city will continue to draw tourists and businesses to our shores;
- Investment of £2.5 million in warmer homes for renters and homeowners facing the cost-of-living crisis;
- Building new affordable housing, becoming the biggest provider of affordable rented housing in the city, and providing over 200 additional council homes in 23/24;
- Council tax will be charged on second homes when the council gets the right to do so;
- Working to minimise the total amount of job losses. Councillors’ allowances are being frozen, and both the Mayor’s office and Council Senior Management are having to make significant savings.
Councillors stress that whilst there will be some points of relief, there will be many more points of hurt. They note that work will continue with trade unions to completely remove the need for job losses, but that these may yet be unavoidable. There are reductions in service, both now and in the future and call on the city to prepare for tough days ahead.
The proposals published today will go to a meeting of senior councillors next week before going to a meeting of all 54 councillors later this month.
Green Finance Co-Lead David Gibson said:
“This council provides hundreds of services every day with over 9000 staff, costing £2.3 million per day. Given that we have had £110 million stolen from us by Government over the last thirteen years, the reality is simply that we have had to prioritise services to save.
“There have been immensely tough decisions that we Greens have been entrusted by voters to make. Whilst there is no avoiding the Tory-imposed cuts, communities across the city have expressed their needs, red lines, and ideas.
“As ever, we have moved mountains to protect as many services and jobs as possible, particularly for the most vulnerable. Thanks to these contributions, as well as hard work and collaboration across the council, we are now able to propose a budget that is balanced – as is legally required – and represents a viable path to protect the most important duties and services of the council. As a result, I am proud that we remain amongst the highest spending unitary authorities in the country per person.”
Council Leader Phélim Mac Cafferty said:
“The reality of this budget is grim. While we are confident that this is the best possible budget in these conditions, we want to be upfront that this is not good news for many.
“We have put a lot of work into improving the situation as much as we can but we know this Tory-rigged budget will still cause a lot of pain across the city. What we are putting forward ensures that the hardships it causes are kept to a minimum. We continue to prioritise services for the city’s most marginalised communities by distributing cuts across different services and finding new ways of providing council services. We will also continue to lobby government with the loudest voices for the funding we know Brighton & Hove needs and deserves.
“I am proud that Green councillors, even in the most trying times, lead with principles and compassion. I call on every councillor on Brighton and Hove City Council to join with us making decisions based on what is best for our residents, local businesses, council staff and visitors.”